If you asked me to name a few musicals, I easily could – The Book of Mormon, The Wizard of Oz, RENT, Hairspray – the list goes on and on. Ever since I moved to North Dakota in 2003, I’ve heard nothing but wonderful stories about the Medora Musical. When I tell people I’ve never been, it’s usually responded to with a sharp gasp and a screeching – “oh you HAVE to go!!!”.
Finally after nearly 15 years of living in the state (or very close there to), I went to the Medora Musical. My first take-away – it’s not really a musical! It should promptly be renamed the Medora Variety Show. You could even call it the Medora Variety Show (Includes Music!!!) in case anyone gets confused during the transition.
It was a great show filled with exceptional talent. But a musical, it was not.
This year’s show was a medley of songs, with a comedian thrown in the middle, about the heroes of North Dakota. We heard about more modern heroes like Carsen Wentz, former quarterback for the North Dakota State Bison who is currently the starting QB for the Philadelphia Eagles. Additionally, we heard (extensively) about Harold Schafer who purchased the Rough Riders Hotel in disarray and restored it, starting the historic restoration and preservation of the town and the beautiful area around it. However, you don’t learn that during the show. You do learn about all of the people that Schafer gave money to for bills, health emergencies, tuition – you name it. As the song went on, it became apparent how large of an impact he had on the people in the area through his monetary gifts. Unfortunately, there was nothing about his role in restoring Medora to it’s former glory and preserving and protecting the land. Maybe this wasn’t addressed because it’s “old news” for people who know the history of Medora. But for us new-comers, it’s a tale that wasn’t told.
A majority of the show focused on every-day heroes like police officers, construction workers, waitresses, truckers, farmers, and overall the people that make up the traditional North Dakota economy. While this was a feel-good message for the people of North Dakota, it also seemed like it reduced North Dakotan’s to a stereotype. Yes, people who live here are resourceful, practical, and religious – but we’re also intelligent entrepreneurs who have created companies that have helped shaped the entire nation. (For instance, because of Great Plains Software, Fargo is now home to a vast Microsoft campus.)
Overall the show was good – it was entertaining, and the singers, musicians, and actors were extremely talented. I’m glad that I had the opportunity to see the musical finally. It was definitely a fun way to spend the evening.